News Briefs: Fall sports to be canceled? State Farm slashes auto rates

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

State Senate Education Chairman Fields calls for canceling fall sports

State Sen. Cleo Fields, the Baton Rouge Democrat who chairs his body’s education committee, is calling for the suspension of all K-12 athletic activities that involve in-person participation by students in a group setting for the upcoming fall semester, including conditioning, practice, team meetings and games.

Fields is asking Board of Elementary and Secondary Education President Sandy Holloway to adopt a rule suspending all athletic activities for the fall semester at its upcoming special meeting, set for July 14. He also asks the Louisiana School Boards Association to reach out to all local school boards and superintendents to request they voluntarily suspend fall athletic activities.

Fields says athletic practices and games require too much close proximity to be conducted safely as long as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

“Currently, BESE does not have a rule in place to protect our student athletes,” Fields said. “I’m asking them to step up and take action to protect our children.”

Insurance Commissioner Donelon: State Farm to slash auto insurance rates almost 10 percent

State Farm will reduce auto insurance rates charged to Louisiana customers by 9.6 percent, Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon says, the largest cut of the four approved for the company since 2018.

The reduction comes as the COVID-19 pandemic and business restrictions put in place to control the spread of the disease reduce the number of miles logged by typical drivers. Companies providing coverage to 97 percent of the state’s drivers have announced similar “premium payback” efforts, according to Donelon’s office.

“State Farm provides auto insurance for more than a million Louisiana policyholders and has been at the forefront of giving consumers relief from their auto premiums due to decreased driving during the COVID pandemic,” Donelon said. “We’ve seen many other local and national insurers do the same since the issuance of nationwide stay at home orders that have resulted in Louisiana policyholders receiving over $202 million in rebates or refunds.”

Legislative Auditor: Suspension of business license renewal fees could affect seven boards

A concurrent resolution Louisiana legislators approved this year directs “state agencies and licensing boards to suspend license renewal fees imposed on existing businesses” through June 30 “as part of a response to and way to help businesses reopen and recover from COVID-19.” But it only applies to boards that have enough money in reserve to operate for at least one-and-a-half years, which rules out state agencies that have annual lapsing appropriations, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor says.

The LLA found 19 boards with enough money in reserve that qualify. But the resolution only applies to business license renewals, which 12 of the boards represented said that they do not charge, the LLA’s office says.

The Louisiana State Board of Nursing had the largest reserve of the 19 with almost $15 million. The Louisiana Board of Drug and Device Distributors, with more than $2.6 million, could operate more than four-and-a-half years on its reserves, longer than any other board, the LLA says.

Tuesday is last day to request absentee ballot for July 11 election

The deadline to request an absentee ballot for Louisiana’s July 11 election is 4:30 p.m. Tuesday for voters who are not in the military or overseas. Voters can request absentee ballots at the Secretary of State’s online voter portal and through their local registrar of voters.

The election includes a presidential preference primary, municipal primaries in some areas, and a special election to fill the seat of Reggie Bagala, who represented District 54 in the state House of Representatives but was killed by COVID-19.

An emergency plan meant to mitigate the public health risks of holding an election during the pandemic adds new reasons for requesting an absentee ballot, including being subject to a medically necessary quarantine, experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or awaiting a diagnosis, caring for someone who is quarantined, or having a chronic health condition that imparts a higher risk of serious COVID-19 complications. It also temporarily waives the usual requirement that first-time voters must vote in person.

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